• Exclusives

    In Triple-A debut, Delgado shows hype is justified

    Gwinnett Braves starter, Randall Delgado

    By Bud L. Ellis

    LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — Shortly after 7 p.m. Saturday, Randall Delgado climbed onto the pitcher’s mound at Coolray Field.

    Awaiting him were two Little League baseball players from nearby Forsyth County. Delgado chatted briefly with the youngsters, and then set about the business of showing why the Atlanta Braves feature the most talented pitching in all of baseball.

    Making his Triple-A debut, Delgado dazzled through six sparkling shutout innings, striking out nine to pace the Gwinnett Braves past Charlotte, 4-0. On a night where shortstop Tyler Pastornicky extended his hitting streak to 11 games and Matt Young wowed the crowd with a steal of home, Delgado’s performance emerged as the story of the evening.

    A crowd of 6,603 gathered amid the humidity and the threatening clouds to see the latest top Braves’ pitching prospect toe the slab for the G-Braves, who began the day 1½ games behind first-place Durham in the International League South Division. The organization’s top prospect, Julio Teheran, has frustrated IL batters; more recently, Arodys Vizcaino has brought his 100-mph fastball out of the G-Braves’ bullpen.

    Delgado skipped past Gwinnett for a spot start with the major-league Braves in June, a loss to Texas in which the 21-year-old allowed seven hits and four runs (three earned) in four-plus innings. Sent back to Double-A Mississippi, Delgado earned the promotion to Triple-A on Tuesday after going 5-5 with a 3.84 ERA in 21 starts for Mississippi, fanning 110 hitters in 117 1/3 innings.

    If nerves played a role in his first Gwinnett start, Delgado didn’t tip his hand. He froze Dayan Viciedo on a called third strike to end a perfect first inning, and then whiffed four of the next six hitters. A somewhat-shaky fourth inning – featuring two walks, a balk and several borderline calls that didn’t go Delgado’s way – resulted in Charlotte loading the bases with two outs.

    But Delgado induced a flyout to center by Josh Phegley to end the threat. He struck out the first two hitters in a perfect fifth, and after allowing a single and a walk in the sixth, Delgado got former Mets and Nationals outfielder Lastings Milledge to strike out to end the inning.

    Delgado’s fastball touched 97 and 95 mph in the second inning, and consistently landed in the 92-94 mph range. His curveball and change-up were pretty solid. Were it not for a few close calls in the fourth inning, Delgado likely would have finished with just one walk. But even when things briefly got rocky in that inning, Delgado looked calm and composed on the mound.

    While Teheran and Vizcaino look poised to join the Braves at some point in the next few weeks – Vizcaino is likely to be on the 25-man major-league roster before Aug. 31, so he and his fireballing right arm will be eligible for postseason play – Delgado may need just a bit more seasoning before ascending into the majors for good.

    But make no mistake: the kid is a keeper, and on a muggy Saturday night just up Interstate 85 from Turner Field, Delgado showed the buzz indeed is justified. The Braves have unbelievable depth in pitching, including a slender right-hander who on Saturday took the next step toward a permanent spot in Atlanta’s rotation.


    Follow Bud L. Ellis on Twitter: @bud006

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